Why "our way of life" is not deserved

Mendicant outside the Kizhaperumpallam temple

CC License - credit: calamur

Recently, after my last argument on immigration, I ended up having a similar discussion with my girlfriend. While she is much more resonable in these debates, nevertheless she too had taken a protectionist stance on the whole issue of immigration. Most of the arguments were similar to the ones I mentioned before but there was one more thrown to the table that I think deserves refutation. It went as thus:

These immigrants, they know that in their own countries and under their own laws, the crimes they do here would be severely punished and this is why they come to our Germany and Europe. They know that here they will just get a “slap on the wrist” compared to where they come from.
If they commit crimes then it is only fair that we send them to the backward country they came from for we (Germans) have worked hard to have the kind of society we do and it’s not fair that they enjoy all the benefits we have achieved and ruin our system.[1. This is not an exact quote but rather the main gist of the argument as I understood it.]

On first take, one would be inclined to agree. Why should we tolerate immigrants who come to our developed countries in order to avoid the horrible societies they live in but yet they cannot respect our laws?

The answer is that this is begging the question. When one asks this, it is presupposed that the 3rd world society people live in is deserved and of their own fault and that when we, as Europeans or North Americans, have a good society, it’s because we are such great and hard-working people and we deserve our way of life.

This is false.

One has to have a very short memory or an ignorance of recent history to believe that the western or developed nations achieved this status by simply being more hardworking than the rest. The nasty truth is that the first world nations have achieved this through imperialism and shameless exploitation of other countries.

Similar to an Objectivist who deludes himself that his status in life is completely self achieved, without taking into account all the societal benefits and luck that allowed him to be who he is, so do the people who express such views completely fail to see that their nation’s status is intertwined irrevocably with the rest of the world and their history.

Great Britain would not have been so great if it didn’t have an India, Australia and Ireland to exploit. US America would not have been so united if the Indigenous population had not been systematically exterminated etc. and this of course does not stop just with history.
Even now wars are being waged by the first world nations, devastating whole societies just because the natural resources are too valuable. Brutal Dictators are being put into power just because they are friendly with the policies of the people in charge and agree to screw over their own countrymen so that first world nations can get the goods. Megacorporations are outsourcing their labour to 3rd world nations so that production, and thus costs, will be cheaper for us. I could go on…

When people from these nations flee their countries in search of a better life, we have to realise that their situation is not their own fault and our countries are partly to blame. Nobody lives in a vacuum and nobody deserves a bad life just because he has been born into it.

The only thing one can say is that they are partly responsible for their own status in life. I say “partly” because this is 90% luck as the where, how and when you were born plays the biggest role and you have no choice in this matter. Still, we have a modicum of control over our own life choices so one can feel at least a bit proud and deserving on what themselves have achieved.

But to extrapolate that and consider that one is deserving of the society one lives in is simply absurd. To further request that people who were not lucky enough to be indigenous in a western nation deserve to be treated worse (i.e. ostracized) is outright wrong.